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Toking Tailgaters: Cannabis and the NFL

Cannabis and NFL
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Toking Tailgaters: Cannabis and the NFL

Giving a whole new meaning to the Super Bowl.

In most circles, the NFL is known as the National Football League. In others, well, it’s an acronym for Nice and F*cking Lit. Although the football season is synonymous with fall, Sundays on the couch, chicken wings and beer, there’s an unsung component of the game that doesn’t get the credit it deserves—cannabis. A lot more folks in the realm of sports fanaticism than the mainstream media cares to admit enjoy kicking off the NFL season with weed. Cannabis is now legal for medicinal and adult use in a slew of states with professional football franchises, making it just as easy for diehard fans to hit their neighborhood dispensary before the big game as the liquor store. And don’t think for a second there aren’t going to be some toking tailgaters in the stadium parking lots this year taking a knee after a big hit.

Cannabis, however, is illegal at the federal level, so the NFL is forced to pretend that people who love the game aren’t goo-goo for ganja. Even in legal states, federal law—the one that still classifies weed as a drug as harsh as heroin—imposes advertising restrictions on cannabis and leaves absolutely no room for sponsorship opportunities. Tune into the game and it becomes painfully evident that these sports broadcasts are worth multimillions in advertising revenue, most of which is funded by beer conglomerates. The catchphrase “This Bud’s for You” doesn’t have anything to do with cannabis—and that’s a shame. Therefore, at first glance, weed doesn’t appear to have a place in the game of football. Yet the people, the fans, the ones who support the league through ticket sales, pay-per-views and merchandise, claim that’s not accurate at all. “We’re always smoking during the games,” Ian, a 38-year-old Indianapolis Colts fan tells Cannabis Now.

Many fans argue that the game is simply more pleasurable when there’s weed involved. After all, everyone has witnessed those videos of angry football fans getting rough in the stands, at times coming to blows with patrons of the opposing team because either booze or a snide comment made someone take the game a little too seriously. One guy is over there screaming, “Go Packers,” while someone else, a row down, is rooting for the Bears. The exchange of a few choice words and the next thing you know, a violent bleacher war erupts, potentially ruining the game for others. This violence can even happen in residential areas. Some studies, in fact, show that domestic violence cases increase by around 10% on gamedays. Cannabis users argue that these people need more weed in their lives, as it helps to maintain the power of passivity, keeping them levelheaded, promoting good times, happiness and sportsmanship above all. If a rivalry gets too heated somewhere along the way, regardless of whether that’s in a stadium or a Buffalo Wild Wings, the so-called potheads are probably not the ones throwing fisticuffs.

“Really bad fights are always breaking out at Eagles’ games,” Rashawn, 33, from Fishtown, says. “We’re over there hitting my vape pen, so we just sit back and laugh and wait for security to throw them out.” More than just helping fans keep it copacetic in public, weed also prevents the overly emotional from unleashing that beast that likes to show up and wreck personal property when a player making millions can’t seem to score a touchdown to save his freaking life. “It makes me less likely to throw things at the TV,” Justin from Denver, said.

Some aficionados of the herb assert that while they’re almost assuredly stoned in front of the television on game day, that’s not really a huge departure from their day-to-day affairs. “I get lit the morning of gameday, but I do the same if it’s not gameday,” a man named Alex joked. Indeed, cannabis helps some folks maintain a sense of humor about the football season. After all, hardcore fans often realize that their team may not be the best in the league. They might even stink. Nevertheless, it’s important to stay loyal, even in the worst of times, because this year could be the year that they take it all the way.

Fortunately, there appears to be a medicinal component to cannabis that makes dealing with a series of losses a lot less depressing. “As a Bears fan, weed made watching the 2022 season possible,” Matt from Chicago says. Agreeing wholeheartedly with the notion that medicating helps fans work through the pain is Michael of Williamsport, OH. “I’m a lifelong Browns fan,” he says. “If anyone needs cannabis to get through an NFL season, it’s us. Further south, a Cowboys fan named Manny believes weed brings a level of tolerance to the game that’s desperately needed. “Weed makes it easier to deal with the bullshit,” he said.

Now, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention perhaps one of the greatest benefits of using cannabis to celebrate the NFL’s 18-week, 272-game season—and that, my dear friends, is the munchies. Sure, cannabis lovers might not have much interest in the beer that traditionally goes along with this sport, but you’d better believe they’re there for the chicken wings, chips, dips, pizza, barbecue and every other creative culinary offering that’s typically served on the sidelines of their respective living rooms. The food is sometimes just as crucial to the overall vibe of the NFL experience as the game itself. “Nobody’s cooking up food as fast as a stoner on game day, I can tell you that much,” Ryan, a Titans fan from Nashville, says.

Unfortunately, football lovers are the only ones who get the luxury of getting lit as the NFL still doesn’t allow players to use cannabis. Not officially. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it anyway. In fact, Travis Kelce, tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, recently told Vanity Fair that he estimates between 50% and 80% of players use cannabis. He admits that changes in the league’s drug policy in 2021 made it easier for them to partake in the offseason and not get popped for a positive drug screen when they returned to play. “Nobody’s really getting hit for it anymore,” Kelce says.

There have been some discussions about whether the league will follow in the footsteps of the NBA and eliminate penalties for cannabis altogether but that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon. Some speculate that the NFL’s position on cannabis may have more to do with politics than pot itself. Again, weed is illegal in the eyes of the federal government, so it’s possible the league is waiting for that to change before moving forward with any further amendments to drug policy.

So, we’ll just have to save all those Super Bowl jokes for just a bit later than we hoped.

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